Category Archives: Computing

New PC 2004-08-23

Well, it’s here, looking sexy on my desk.
She has an outer case in beige with a dark blue fascia panel
that has blue down both sides and at the bottom.

In the interior you would find…….

DVD/CD Writer
120GB HD
3.5″ Floppy $14
Albatron KX600S motherboard
512MB Memory
G-Force FX 5700 Graphics Card
56K Modem
Windows XP Home

I got it from 9-10 AM Monday 23 August 2004 from Vintron.
(just down the road at 142 Yaldhurst Rd)

After getting a new DVD player (I now have 2) I needed something
to play on it. I didn’t want to use my Ayreon DVD until the region
settings were permanent, so I went to Riccarton Mall and got
‘The Complete Black Adder’. It’s the four seasons on 4xDVDs.

While in Dick Smith I got the last (so I was told)
256MB USB Micro Drive in the shop. The CD that comes with it is
very handy, it has…….
Adobe Acrobat 6.0
CDEX 151 (CD Ripper)
DirectX 9 (22/6/2004)
Mozzila 1.7
Firefox 0.9
Thunderbird 0.7
OpenOffice 1.1 (2003 August 11)
PC Tech Guide
This looks interesting, even explains DVD types !
WinAmp 3.0 & 5.03
Zone Alarm

Fortunately, the guys at Vintron tested the PC with XP using
the ‘Classic’ Win98 style interface. I have been spared the horrible
‘furry’ default style. There lots of little changes I am noticing
to XP (relative to 98) and most of them are just plain annoying.
I can see what Microsoft have done, trying to make thing ‘easier’
for the novice. But they just get in the way !

I’m not sure where the DVD writing software is ?
There appears to be some sort of built in support for writing CDs,
but I don’t know about DVDs. Do you need to install another application
to do DVD authoring & audio CDs ?

I don’t know why I was worrying about running my old
9-Pin dot matrix printer. I didn’t even bother installing
a printer driver. I just ran CMD and entered


it worked first time !

The Palm transfers work faster now, with a USB connection it’s seconds instead of minutes !

I don’t need the old serial cradle now. Ian, do you still want it ?

So far, the only real problem has been the lack of a Win XP driver for my Camera floppy adapter. After searching on the internet I eventually found it and got the camera transfers working.

Tried installing Adobe Audition. Installs OK, but fails
to work. No feedback !

Be sure to listen to National Radio Tuesday 24th at 8pm.

Kim Hill is having a discussion on ‘nasty violent’ computer/video
games. In the promo currently playing, they are describing ‘Doom 3’
as one of the most violent games.


PC Meeting 11/4/96

PC Group Meeting 11/4/96

(Electronic Banking from the National Bank)

Was to be presented by Nigel Wilson, but was done by Jane who is
the rep for the top of the south island (above Timaru)

With a computer, modem & $40 per month you can pay your bills
electronically (no cheques involved). Apparently this has been available
to large companies for 7 years. Now the National Bank is targeting
medium to small businesses with this Windoze product.

With the pricing at $40 per month (no other charges) I suspect that
it is being subsidized. This price makes it economical down to the
business with only a few staff.

The software looks like it has been refined over many versions. Despite
having no accounting knowledge, after the 40 minute presentation I am
sure I could use the package to pay my bills. With the use of credit
cards and EFTPOS, I could throw away that annoying _right_ handed
cheque book.

The product is not targeted at individuals, however it seems inevitable
that a personal electronic banking service will be promoted by the banks in a few years.

The most interesting part is the security verification method.
Payments are made in batches. Each batch goes through a 5 stage cycle

1. Data entry
The bank accounts, and the amount to be transferred is entered.
For a business using an accounting package, this is done

2. Batch frozen
At this stage a printout can be obtained

3. Security Verification
The purchaser of the product is given a small device that (from
a distance) appears to be a calculator.
The person(s) that can authorize the payments has a PIN number
(8-12 digits). Each batch generates a random number. To authorize
a batch, you enter your PIN number and the unique number for the
batch. The calculator responds with a number, this is entered into
the computer.

4. Waiting in Que
Each batch waits for connection via the telephone to the bank.
When connected, a compressed file is sent to the bank. The bank
responds to verify the transactions and puts the batch in …

5. Finished Box
Transactions completed. These can be dragged to the first stage,
the amounts changed to correspond to the bills, and the process

Other Features :
* Receive Account statements (sent to accounting software)

* E-Mail to the Bank Manager (another $1,000,000 loan pleeze)

* No limit on the number of accounts used

* Could be used for company or personal use

* Works on International transactions

* Can request a bank cheque

* Requires 30Meg HD Space

* $100 for every additional calculator device

* More secure than a cheque or credit card (Similar to EFTPOS)

* transactions can be made on a specific date (ie when you have the $$)

PC Meeting

This meeting report comes from sometime in the 1990s

PC Meeting

The last PC Users meeting was held at Robbie’s Lancaster, near Jade Stadium. It’s a comfy venue and I got a nice meal for under $10.00.

Robert Edgeler from Big Byte spent time before the meeting playing with his flight simulator, spending all of the time in ChCh airport.

He spent the first ten minutes of his talk explaining that while he was from Big Byte and wearing a company jersey, he was there to give advice. However he managed to imply that we should all show our appreciation by buying lots of stuff from his workplace.

He covered lots of things for a new purchaser to look out for.
Most time was spent on how to avoid getting nuisance attacks, spam
and rubbish from the internet. He named the “Windows Media Player”
as the worst offender, it collects PC information on browsing
habits and sends the data to advertisers. Apparently there is an option
that is on by default, but can easily be turned off.

He claimed that “Registry First Aid” was the best program to remove
unwanted entries from the registry.

He also mentioned some system performance measures to speed things up. But I’m not going to pass these on the people who have PCs 4x faster than mine, you will just have to PUT UP with your 1,000MHz+ PCs !

Interesting site mentioned:
Here you can find people you went to school with. I haven’t visited, but
you may be interested.

Try not to overclock your brains during the weekend.
See Ya Monday.

Syberia 2


Syberia II is a 2004 adventure game conceived by Benoît Sokal and developed by MC2-Microïds, and a continuation to Syberia. It is a third-person puzzle-solving game. Stylistically identical to the first Syberia, Syberia II improves upon the first game by introducing more realistic character animation.

Syberia follows the guidelines first introduced by LucasArts: it is impossible to die or to get stuck at any moment in the game, which allows the user to become fully immersed in Syberia’s universe without the fear of making a mistake or the constant need to save the game.

Adventure Gamers Review

First, this is a better game than the first. Mainly due to the better puzzle design. There is more variety and are more logical. Large portions of the game I could complete without resorting to help.

It also brings the story to a conclusion and shows creatures hinted at in the  first game. For this game I used the UHS (Universal Hints System) instead of a walk-through, which probably forced me to spend more time on the puzzles. Also, talking to people helped a lot with solving problems and showing the way forward, something the first game didn’t do as well. 

The graphics are similar the first game, however the sound was more low key and atmospheric. Symphonic music was mainly used during the cut-scenes.


The were less  phone calls, however the tedious and ultimately pointless private eye cut scenes came to nothing. All you see is silhouettes and it adds nothing to the plot.

There is a girl with a balloon at the start who becomes a problem as getting her to react is dependent on a specific character interaction.

Overall (taking the two games together) an enjoyable game.

(11 Hours to complete)

On 26 November 2012, Microïds revealed on their Facebook page that Benoît Sokal had officially signed a contract with Anuman to write the story of Syberia III and that official development had started. The game is scheduled for release on 1 Dec 2016. Additionally the project is to be overseen by Elliot Grassiano, the original founder of Microïds. Sokal left Microïds shortly after the release of Syberia II and founded his own company White Birds Productions to release Paradise, a game that uses a similar style of gameplay as Syberia but is not directly related.

Atari Manual

Here is a list of 7 things to do with your Atari ST Owners Manual.

  1. If you have a Mega ST it can be used to prop the keyboard up
    to the correct angle.
  2.  The back can be used for the shopping list. If you use water
    based felt tip pens you can wipe the writing off and use it
  3. The manual is thin enough to be used as a bookmark for the
  4.  Cover with acrylic paint. When dry it can be used as a mouse
  5. Use to swat flies or moths.
  6. Use it to hold open the pages of some of the more verbose
    games manuals. (like Falcon & Balance of Power).
  7. As a final option you could always read it.

Syberia 1


Syberia is a 2002 computer adventure game designed by Benoît Sokal, developed by Microïds, and published through The Adventure Company. It follows Kate Walker, the protagonist, as she attempts to wrap up a sale on behalf of her law firm and travels across Europe and Russia. In addition to the main plot, the game contains a subplot conducted via calls received on Kate’s cell phone. It involves Kate’s deteriorating relationship with her fiancé.

Syberia was acclaimed by critics for its graphic design and intelligent script. The game contains elements of art nouveau and steampunk fiction. Most devices and tools within the game’s world (including a train) are powered by springs and wind-up gears.

The success of Syberia prompted a sequel, Syberia II. It was released in 2004 and continues the story from where the first game ends. As of 2014, Syberia III is in development. The game will be published by Anuman Interactive, and Benoît Sokal will write the script. The release date is set for 2016. Gameplay for Syberia 3 was shown at E3, the game is presented in full 3D graphics for greater immersion.

It’s a game notable for its graphic art and moody soundscapes. As for the story, it’s interesting but not extraordinary. There is much hinted at in the details that doesn’t show itself. This is probably in the sequel.

I had a few problems things with the game.

First the deteriorating relationship with her never seen boyfriend. This is just annoying and could have been removed without altering the story. There is no reason the Kate needs a love interest, it just gets in the way.

Then there is the frequent   phone calls from her mother, employer and friends. There is only one puzzle that needs her mother. Otherwise they are not needed.

Most of the puzzles are object based and logical. However many appear arbitrary and without the walk-through I would have been lost with nothing to do. There is little help from other characters. One of the puzzles required four cogs you get at the start of the game. Unfortunately I picked up two, not realizing there were another two needed. There is a lot of pixel hunting to ensure you don’t miss anything.

Overall, a good game (with help from a walk-through)




Starcraft Ends

Finally, after almost 20 years I have finished the main story arc of this popular strategy game.

The original game was released in 1998 and I probably started playing it soon after.  Starcraft 2 came out on July 27 2010 and I played it about a year later. Then came ‘Heart of the Swarm’ , released March 12 2013. The final part of the trilogy was ‘Legacy of the Void released November 10, 2015.

Now it’s all over (almost), there   is Nova Covert Ops a nine game mission pack. But with parts 2 and 3 coming out in Dec 2016, I can wait for everything to be released first.

In addition to the games, I have also read the following books:

Golden, Christie – StarCraft – Dark Templar #1 – Firstborn
Golden, Christie – StarCraft – Dark Templar #2 – Shadow Hunters
Golden, Christie – StarCraft – Dark Templar #3 – Twilight
Grubb, Jeff Star – Craft 1 Liberty’s Crusade
Mesta, Gabriel –  StarCraft 2 Shadow of the Xel’Naga
Hickman, Tracy – StarCraft 3 Speed of Darkness
Neilson, Micky – StarCraft 4 Uprising
Rosenberg, Aaron – StarCraft 5 Queen of Blades
DeCandido, Keith RA – StarCraft 6 Ghost – Nova
McNeill, Graham – StarCraft 7 I Mengsk
Dietz, William C – Starcraft II 1 Heaven’s Devils
Golden, Christie – Starcraft II 2 Devils’ Due
Golden, Christie – Starcraft II 3 Flashpoint

So until Nova, it’s goodbye the Jim Raynor, Artanis and the Queen Bitch of the Universe, Sarah Kerrigan.






PC Crisis

Crisis, What Crisis ?
(or “Why staying cool is important”)

Saturday 14 Jan 2006
While playing a demo of Warcraft 3 the monitor went blank.
Then it came on again, went off, flickered and looked like
an electronic device near its deathbed. I turned everything
off, went and did other things for a while then came back.
Now it worked, but not for long. Five minutes later it went
blank. By pushing the contrast and brightnesss to max I could
just see the image, enough to do a proper shutdown.

It seemed obvious, the monitor was kaput, deceased and gone to
silicon hell. So I got in the car and went to Dragon PCs in Archon
Drive. They had a Viewsonic VA702S, a LCD 17 inch monitor for
$427. I was tempted to get the 19 inch for an extra $100, but
knowing the image would be a bit larger than existing monitor, went
for the 17 inch.

I put the old, damaged monitor in the corner (next to the trash)
and installed the new monitor. It went perfectly – for about 10
minutes. Then the same problem occurred. Bugger, the only explanation could be that the PC was faulty, probably the video card.
Could it be a loose connection ?
I removed the cover and blew the dust from 17 months of use
away. Gently pressing on the cards, there didn’t appear to
be any obvious problems.

Sunday 15 January
With my digital buddy resting there wasn’t much to do.
I watched Red Dwarf series 7 then looked at the old PC in the
corner. I had been intending to reformat the disks and get
red of it. An old version of Partition Magic came out and I managed
to stuff up the partitions on both disks and get DOS installed
on the C: drive (that was the idea).

Monday 16 January
At 8:30 the PC arrived at Vintron with a worried owner.
The cover was opened and the innards examined. Graham found the
problem immediately. The videocard fan was so stuffed with dust
it had stopped operating. It was left to be fixed.
Later that day he phoned to say it was fixed and I could pick it up.

Tuesday 17 January
After work the PC came home to a desk with two monitors ready.
I would get an adapter cable and run two 17 inch monitors side
by side. Everything worked OK, I could get me email and stay
up to date with Trademe (current addiction). Then I noticed
strange red patterns on web pages. I was wrong, it wasn’t just
the web pages, it was everywhere. Next, windows failed to close,
icons went blank and everything overlapped everything else, bugger.
I unhooked the old monitor and tried the new LCD monitor. At first
it was OK, then the same thing happened again. I checked the video
settings, everything appeared to be installed correctly. I turned
everything off and tried again. After 5-10 minutes the same thing
happened. It took about the same time for everything to go wrong
as before, on saturday. Conclusion: maybe the fan isn’t working
on this videocard either. This PC is going back.
The keyboard went on the old PC and I got to know DOS EDIT.COM
again. I amused myself by getting old DOS games working, including
Discworld 2, a game that wouldn’t work on anything but DOS.

Wednesday 18 January
Phoned Vintron and arranged to bring the PC to their workshop.
At Vintron, Graham didn’t bother to verify my problem, he just took
the old Videocard out and put another one in. We hooked the PC up
to his monitor and waited for something to go wrong. After 10 minutes nothing did, so we concluded the problem was fixed. In total it cost $3, and that was for the cheap speakers I got to put on my old PC. It was still working after about five hours of operation at home, so it looks like that problem has been fixed.

Friday 20 January
Finally got the adapter for the second monitor and had both running.
With a bit of fiddling, changed resolutions and settings so they
worked together. New problem, the new LCD is brighter and better than the old CRT monitor. Maybe I should get a new LCD monitor so they match. Anyone want to buy an old 17 inch monitor ?

2016 Update
I an still using the same set of monitors.


Personal Digital Assistant

PDAs of the Future

Silly ? I love my PDA !
It’s lost a screw, got a crack down one side and still works !
Actually, the virtual keyboard is not advanced enough.
What I need is ….

1. A PDA with the storage and processing power of a 2005 PC.
This should be able to connect the the new G3 network or via
the frequency of your chordless phone to the internet or a base station.
(not yet available)

2. A special attachment to spectacles that projects an image straight to the retina of the eye.  Probably one eye, that way, by opening one eye you get a ‘virtual world’ overlay on the real world and if you close the other eye, all you see is the virtual world. Connect this to the PDA. (this is currently available but still in development – not _exactly_ sure what you see)

3.  A virtual keyboard. But not one that that projects onto a flat surface, it appears in your vision and sensors in the glasses detect gestures, interprets them and allows you to interact with the software. (these are available, but I think they require a glove)

4, A small microphone in the glasses near the nose that can hear what you say and operate the PDA where the use of the virtual keyboard is not appropriate. (shouldn’t be difficult, just Dragon voice recognition)

5. And an earpiece for one (or both) ears.

I can imagine that such an early system would be cumbersome, making you look like Jean Luc Picard when he (temporarily) became a Borg.

After a few years (decade from now ?) the whole thing (including PC)  would look like a pair of thick rimmed spectacles. Then we would all be sitting and standing around, browsing the internet, talking to ourselves, doing our work and looking like Zombies.

Never mind traffic problems with cell-phones. Imagine the crashes caused by trying to drive and looking at porn at the same time 🙂

Of course by then you two will be cycling to work – you couldn’t afford the petrol.

Written 18/5/2006 (exactly 10 years ago)
Nigel Baker